The Post's July 15 editorial "Beyond Rhetoric for Africa" inaccurately describes the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The story refers to opposition to the bill from "the usual protectionist lobbies" to the bill's inclusion of conditionality on "human rights, labor standards and fiscal reforms." The bill has no binding provisions on either human rights or worker rights. The absence of any such provision is in fact the reason for much of the opposition to the bill.

Instead, the bill specifically requires countries to obey International Monetary Fund (IMF) mandates. IMF policies generally require cuts in domestic spending, higher interest rates and credit restraints, as well as indiscriminate privatization. In a recent Preamble Center study, we found -- using IMF data -- that IMF policies had substantial negative effects on the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Under IMF-imposed structural adjustment programs in Africa, per capita incomes have fallen, spending on education has dropped, and external debt burdens have risen dramatically.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act also requires African countries to give new rights to foreign investors to establish ownership in sectors including natural resources and land. It would prohibit African leaders from enacting a number of measures to promote national economic development and from screening incoming investments -- for example, for their environmental impact.

Another bill before Congress -- the HOPE for Africa Act, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and 72 other Democrats -- provides the human rights and labor protections missing from the African Growth and Opportunity Act.



The writer is a research associate at the Preamble Center, a nonprofit institution that does research on international economic policy, trade and investment.

In arguing for passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act Liberia's Ambassador Rachel Gbenyon-Diggs unwittingly sets forth the most persuasive reason why the Senate should not pass that well-intentioned but wholly misguided legislation [op-ed, July 15].

Ambassador Gbenyon-Diggs said that relief for long-suffering Africans in the form of an opportunity for reasonable standards of living is more likely to result from their governance by stable democratic governments. The inescapable truth -- which the ambassador failed to state -- is that such relief requires the eradication of the growing number of brutal African dictators.

Many of these despots contrived to hijack political power over the dead and mutilated bodies of tens of thousands of their citizens. Ambassador Gbenyon-Diggs's own country, Liberia, is a prime example of this genocidal syndrome.

Yet the passage of a bill that alleviates the debt of those African countries surely will perpetuate the dictators' stranglehold. It also would subvert the already faltering dreams for democracy of millions of Africans.

The Senate should vote down this bill and in its place pass a bill that explicitly provides debt and other economic relief only to those African countries that are governed by democratic governments with no links to acts of genocide, either as sponsors or perpetrators, against either its own citizens or nationals of other countries such as my native Sierra Leone.